Here's how Elle Gordon is making the most of the clothes she already owns.
“Oh I love your dress, Elle!” “Oh this oul thing?” The old me would have quipped back that line, while knowing full well that the slight discomfort at the back of my neck was in fact the tag digging in, an uncomfortable reminder that ‘this oul thing’ is anything but.
But the new me says ‘This oul thing’ and means it. Re-wearing pieces, with pride in the fact that I can truthfully answer, with the knowledge that there isn’t a single white lie squished in amongst my hangers.
Not shopping is flipping liberating. Those of you who read my previous piece can skip the next few lines, but just in case you didn’t I will give a quick recap. I decided to implement a no-shopping rule in my life, having realised that my life as a fast fashion consumer was no longer bringing me joy but instead bringing me clutter, too many options, and fewer pieces that I absolutely adored. And rather more pieces that I had fleeting love affairs with, only for them to spend the rest of their days quite literally hanging out in the back of my wardrobe, forgotten.
Those who know me well know just how much what I wear and how it makes me feel are interlinked, and are so important in my life. I truly believe an outfit can change a day, lift any dark cloud that life might have hanging over you, fuel confidence when it’s needed, make a great impression when inside you feel like doing anything but, and give you the power when you’re feeling lightyears from powerful. Those pieces of fabric stitched together really do have their own superpowers.
But similarly, shopping, clothes and this frequent consumption can become too much, and for me, turned me into a frazzled and thrown together, fretful consumer. How often do we all find ourselves saying, ’Oh but I have worn that a million times!’ or ‘I have NOTHING to wear’ while gazing at a packed wardrobe? And it was when I realised that for me, the negatives were outweighing the positives that I just decided to stop. Enough clobber. Wear what I have.
I expected I would last a few weeks. Never did I think I would last this long. And not only that but I haven’t had one moment of, ‘That’s it, I cannot go, I have no clothes!’ while crumpled, tear-soaked, amongst the equally crumpled contents of my wardrobe. It just hasn’t happened. Instead, I have taken joy and found the joy in searching through my wardrobe in Dublin and wardrobe(s)… in my family home in Cavan.
I implemented the mother of all spring cleans – initially a little bit manic that flipping none of it was bringing me joy as I cleared out years of clothes. I have heard psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy talking about when people have a poor relationship with food, he will ask them, ‘What’s eating you?’ And I realised the same might apply to me and many of my purchases bought so hastily over the years. A dress bought with tears spilling on a day when someone said something very cruel. A bag I bought on a day that I think my heart broke. Clothes as comfort food? Little did I realise.
I am so glad I have managed to press pause on this. And in doing my clear out I also rediscovered pieces. A Fran & Jane dress I wore on my 18th birthday and felt like a goddess that night in. A French Connection silk dress that I wore to another 18th until my friend puked on me and then I dislocated my finger… okay, maybe not the best memory in the actual wearing, but I had it dry cleaned and then put it away never to be worn again. Maybe I should try? Ok, well maybe that one is out… post-puke dress is a hard one to love even for my shop-less self.
But the other thing is that this no shop is causing me to muster up all of my creative juices. Two handbags, both Marc Jacobs, have had new life breathed into them by the master that is Andrew Farrell at Handbag Therapy on Dublin’s Charlemont Street. He re-dyed the leathers and cleaned the interior so they feel like new, they bring me joy, but they are old, old, old!
A beautiful yellow dress that I wore to last year’s Peter Mark VIP Style Awards and subsequently wore to Coppers… (!) (and in doing so wrecked the bottom which got covered in…. well I think it was mud) is currently in a Zip Yard, undergoing a transformation. I am going to turn it from maxi to midi and make a change or two on the neckline. It’s exciting and fun to be part of this re-design which will leave me with a unique piece that no one can buy. Pretty cool.
And perhaps the most profound thing I have learned? I am not less valued by the people that love me, or less successful in doing the thing that I love which is putting outfits together. Now, people might say, ‘Oh I have always loved the dress on you’ and I take pride in being a repeater in a dress that I utterly adore. I find myself more at ease with my wardrobe which has kicked its side career as a sartorial conveyor belt.
Now, I really know what is there. I also don’t have any of those dreaded impulse buys lurking around, you know the ones, the piece you manically bought for that event only to wear it once and never wear it again. Now, they all hold weight because nothing new is coming in anytime soon. So I’ll find myself suddenly made to think, ‘Ah, well if I put that dress with that jumper, that could be kind of cool.” Finding the joy in what I already own. So to finish, going cold turkey on shopping has not been so bad – in fact, I’d definitely recommend it!
When you can’t buy you just work with what you have
So, if you have a bag that you adore but it’s looking worse for wear, bring it into Handbag Therapy for a re-dye and clean. Just like new
Buy a rail
A style queen once advised me: If you can’t see it, you won’t wear it. So unearth that wardrobe… you’ll find so many possibilities you already own
Don’t be fazed by trends
They come and go. Look to your classic pieces for flawless outfit options and expect plenty of admiring glances
Do a clear out and be ruthless
The most stylish women I know swear by regular clear outs so even if you’re not taking in new pieces, keep checking in on the old and if it’s not getting worn or does not bring you joy throw it out already!